A group of female former Palestinian prisoners detained in Israeli jails have accused prison guards of carrying out “humiliating” internal body searches in violation of Israel’s prison code.
In an exclusive report, former detainee Sabreen Abu Amara told Al Jazeera’s Nour Odeh that she spent six years living in fear of intrusive and degrading treatment at the hands of Israeli guards.
Abu Amara said the guards strip-searched female prisoners, sometimes forcing them to squat and undergo a thorough internal examination.
One lawyer is now collecting evidence from 10 female prisoners who say they were strip-searched in an effort to lodge an official complaint.
Dr Mahmoud Saiwail, the director of a treatment and rehabilitation centre for victims of torture in Ramallah, said he believes the alleged treatment of the women constitutes a form of torture.
“Usually victims of torture are reluctant to seek help from professionals,” he said.
“We approach them because shame is a cardinal symptom. They don’t come to us.
“What worries us is not the immediate consequences of torture, [it’s] the remote consequences of torture [that] might appear after many years in the form of social and family problems.”
The Israeli prison authority later responded to the allegations, telling Al Jazeera that its searches on prisoners were conducted according to regulations.
‘Violating international law’
Leah Tsemel, an Israeli lawyer who has been representing Palestinian prisoners, told Al Jazeera the main issue facing female prisoners was that they were being held captive in Israel, rather than the West Bank or Gaza.
“They are also being brought to trial inside Israel and not in the occupied territories as they should according to the Geneva convention”
Leah Tsemel, lawyer for Palestinian prisoners
“The major problem is that they are classified as security prisoners and not as political prisoners as they should be, and they have less rights than any criminal prisoner.
“They are being shifted from their places in the West Bank or in the Gaza Strip into Israel, which is totally in contradiction to international conventions, such as the Geneva convention.
“People in occupied territories should be held in their own territories.
“They are also being brought to trial inside Israel and not in the occupied territories as they should according to the Geneva convention ,” she said.
“They can hardly have family visits and they cannot have any conversations on the phone. Even the family visit, once it occurs, is behind glass and one has to talk over the phone with the relative. So there is a total condition of intimidation.”
She also said women prisoners who have children in jail will have them taken away from them once the child reaches two years old.